British Airways no longer operates cheap flights from London Gatwick to Accra as part of its new summer schedule. Instead, operations will take place at Heathrow, London’s primary airport. When the Ghanaian government threatened “reciprocal measures” in response to the proposed airport relocation, the decision was made.
BA reverses course on the Gatwick to Ghana proposal
The Ghanaian government’s displeasure with British Airways’ decision to move operations from London Heathrow to sister airport Gatwick for the summer of 2021 was originally reported back in January. The nation’s Ministry of Aviation strongly opposed the relocation and even threatened “reciprocal measures” in response to the proposed change of airport.
Ghana Web reported a statement from the Ministry that read:
We strongly disagree with the modifications because we don’t believe the justifications for moving the Accra-bound BA flight from Heathrow to Gatwick Airport.
In this respect, we would like to clarify clearly that if our request for British Airways to change its mind about flying to Gatwick Airport is not heard, the Ghanaian authorities will advise themselves and take retaliatory measures on behalf of our customers in the coming days.
While no more information on the “reciprocal action” was provided, Ghanaian media stated that BA was “reconsidering” its stance. In fact, Ghana Web reported this week that the British airline had written to the Ministry to say that it was “considering Ghana’s answer seriously and would express their decision in due time.”
The choice seems to have been decided at this point. One Mile At A Time has reported today that, contrary to earlier suggestions, the rotation from London to Accra would use London Heathrow for the Summer 2021 season.
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Has BA succumbed to pressure?
While it would be simple to claim that the choice to return to Heathrow was one made out of diplomatic concern, airline decisions often incorporate more factors than that. British Airlines has used agility in its business planning during the epidemic to optimize for demand wherever it has been seen.
This has sometimes required retiring whole fleets, turning passenger jets into freighters, and, of course, altering routes and networks. The airline disclosed big adjustments to its summer 2021 plans in December, and it is still adjusting schedules to meet demand.
It only makes sense for the flag carrier to concentrate its operations with tough border controls in place from the UK until at least mid-May. More of the airline’s long-haul planes gathered at one location will save expenses and boost flexibility. British Airlines today provided Easy Flying with the following statement:
We continuously evaluate our network, and we will maintain providing our dependable service from London Heathrow to Accra.
While Ghana’s impulsive response may have influenced British Airways’ plans to some degree, it’s unclear that it had a significant impact on the choice. Yet, it is believed that Ghana would hail this as a victory for the Ministry.
Gatwick was in fact one of the first locations the British airline abandoned in the early stages of the epidemic. While it temporarily resumed throughout the summer, the airline again paused its Gatwick operations in November.